Agent Carter: Growing Up in the 1900s

Peggy Carter has possibly been one of the most interesting and dynamic personalities that Marvel has created. Since Fox has rights on so many Marvel characters, they were forced to look into some of more invisible entities which had existed throughout Marvel lore, and Peggy Carter the original was one of them.

TV!Peggy beats Comic book!Peggy any day. And for the first time, with the fourth episode in the second season, we see Marvel exploring territories which it had otherwise left alone. With this episode, Marvel fleshes out Peggy even more (if that was even possible), and with it, shows what it was like to grow up during the 1900s.

With the way Marvel has begun to show the character of Whitney Frost, I think we see the coming of the first female supervillain. Both the girls have almost identical childhoods – with a kinder family for Peggy, perhaps, and a stronger Whitney than you would imagine. This is almost curious – we expected Peggy to be just as cool as she had always been: just as badass as she is now. We expected Peggy to be able to beat the living daylights out of any man, no matter how old she was. If not that, we at least expected her to be able to stand up to every misogynistic man she ever met.

The fact is, women growing up during those times did not face so blush a childhood to have character traits which automatically made them stand up for themselves. Women had to justify their need to do something which went outside the natural purview of feminity, and in doing so, they had to justify it to themselves as well. They could not simply waltz in to face the misogyny – they had to go through a character arc to do so.

And in that, both Peggy and Whitney Frost have two very different motivations. Peggy is initially beaten down by societal expectations (which is just stunning in its own right!), and she was planning a domestic life by herself until her brother dies. This is problematic to me, because another female character finds solace in a male character telling her she is capable of more, yet I can accept it. That we see the beginnings of Peggy and Michael Carter’s relationship establishes some very relevant points to me – Peggy was never someone who behaved like a lady, she was beaten into believing that it was what was expected. Peggy must have been lonely, since she was playing a fairy tale game all by herself and her doll. And that Peggy was encouraged by Michael to fight shows that she at least had some supporters.

Peggy decided to become a spy after her brother died – maybe to honour his memory, maybe because the internal conflict in her mind became too much for her to handle. But, eventually, she comes to the conclusion that all of us always knew was coming: she was going to be a badass. Well, maybe she didn’t think of it in so many words, but that is the essence of it all.

Whitney Frost is motivated by her need to leave her home, and motivated by a mother who seems to know nothing more than how to please a man. In this case, perhaps Whitney is more lonely and isolated than Peggy ever was. Being good at science would have just meant that she had no friends among the girls, and even lesser among the boys – who cannot want a smart girl as a friend. If Peggy was a natural brawler, then she would have still gained a little respect with the animousity, but Whitney would have been completely alone in this respect. Whitney’s isolated world would have lead to something of a mental stubbornness that Peggy could not have naturally grown. It is harder to be stubborn with people you love, and people who love you back. Even the messages they take from their childhoods are very different: Whitney just wants to be anything she wants, while Peggy decides to fight, because she is built to fight.

The fourth episode gave a wonderful peek into the history and family life of Peggy Carter. Hopefully, the trend will continue.

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